Dehing Patkai The Truth: The controversy manufactured for political motive

Bhavik Bamania
Bhavik Bamania
 -  7 mins read
Dehing Patkai The Truth: The controversy manufactured for political motive

For the past week, amidst the heated news of #COVID19 and The Super Cyclone Amphan, there is one more news which sprouts up from nowhere after a month it was actually published or it will be more justifiable to say, it was forcibly injected to harp a new political agenda amongst netizens.

For the past week, amidst the heated news of #COVID19 and The Super Cyclone Amphan, there is one more news which sprouts up from nowhere after a month it was actually published or it will be more justifiable to say, it was forcibly injected to harp a new political agenda amongst netizens.

The news is about Dihing Patkai and the coal mining which has been going on in the region since British times, since 1884 but a clearance from NBWL on The Coal India, for continuing the coal mining in Saleki Proposed Reserve Forest, Margherita paved a way of new controversy and protest for saving the “Amazon of the East” from coal mining.

Dihing Patkai, The Amazon of the East

Dihing Patkai is rainforest area also known as “The Amazon of the East” which includes 937 sqkm of the lowland tropical rainforest that spread across the North-Eastern part of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, and it also consists the Dihing Patkai Elephant Reserve, and this is the primary objective behind the protest.

But here is the twist, it is not the first time when the authorities gave the nod to coal mining. The history of mining in the Dihing Patkai region can be traced back to 1884, during British times, even Digboi, which is considered as Oil City of Assam is also a part of this Dihing Patkai Elephant Reserve.

Coal Mining Post-Independence

The coal mining continued after independence as well, in 1973 during Indira Gandhi’s tenure, the then Centre Government gave a nod to coal mining for 30 years in the area of 98.59 hectares.

The license which was given in 1973 was expired in 2003, but the illegal mining has been going on in the Dihing Patkai region since then, the Northeastern Coal Fields has also accepted the fact that they have been indulged in illegal coal mining since then, upon which no one took it in consideration.

It was Sarbananda Sonowal Government, who are first to take the action on this matter and slammed the fine of Rs. 43.25 Crores on Coal India for not renewing the license of coal mining in Dehing Patkai region. They took against the State Officials and as well as Coal India Officials.

Later, the mining companies had sought permission from the Modi’s Government but the proposal was rejected and a committee has been set up with the ecologists and foresters to come up with a report over this matter. There have been inquiries over the matter to find out the culprits and punish them. Thus this debunks the fact that Modi Government gave the nod on coal mining apparently, the current government didn’t start the mining in the region. Even this propaganda was debunked by Nature’s Beckon founder Mr. Soumyadeep Dutta, a renowned environmentalist from North East. He released a video on the above subject and ensured that the Dihing Patkai is safe, but the newbies, keyboard warriors, and the “rented environmentalist” lambasted him severely on Social media after his video message.

Video message by Soumyadeep Dutta.

In this video which is in Assamese, he assured that “Dehing Patkai is completely safe and Neither state government nor the center government has any plans for coal mining activity inside sanctuary premises. He also thank the people of Assam for their proactive role and showing their concern and raising their voices.

Who is Soumyadeep Dutta?

Soumyadeep Dutta is a renowned environmentalist based in Assam, through his organization Nature’s Beckon, he started grassroot movement in the region and he is the pioneer of various movements owing to the biodiversity conservation and awareness, Nature’s Beckon pledged to give absolute protection to 500 sqkm of the completely undisturbed pristine tropical rainforest of Dihing Patkai. It is his organization’s effort to bring this rare heritage into the limelight which is the last remaining patch of this pristine rainforest through his various awareness movements.

They fought for the protection of this area, and as a result after tremendous pressure from the People of Assam and Nature’s Beckon, the then government of Assam declared 111.19 sqkm of the rainforest as Dihing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary in 2004, but the struggle continues as the destructive force was trying to destroy the 500 sqkm patch of rainforest they not only fought against the mining firms but with oil companies like Premier Oil which suppose to drill the area for oil in the proposed region.

Along with these efforts, he is also being the pioneer of awareness movements like All Assam Environment Awareness Campaign, nature’s club in Assam, it is due to his efforts that there are more than 1000 nature club were sprung up in Assam. The clarification given by him makes more sense and stops further speculations.

Are these environmental concerns are politically motivated?

The entire episode also gives a thought of whether these concerns about the environment are genuine or politically influenced like Aarey Forest Issue in Maharastra? If the concerns were genuine and true to the cause then why they got termors from the clarification by Soumyadeep Dutta, and had made him the subject of their hatred by lambasting him severely with utter disdain. He gave clarification just to clear the confusion created by this campaign.

The NBWL gave the nod to continue coal mining in this region a month back in April and The Hindu publishes the news on April 24th, it is one of the serious questions why it took a month for ‘spontaneous’ outrage over this? The matter came into highlight when Dhruv Rathee, posted on his page on May 16th, it took a month to read the news from a well known daily The Hindu.

Another, important factor to note about this entire “rented protest” is motived from yet another flop “protest” for Aarey Forest during Maharastra elections, it seems like this “rented for a cause” protest is nothing about to destabilize and forging a narrative among those who know nothing, over the few years, it’s sad but the environment has been used for the selfish motive of the politicians.

Here in the case of Dihing Patkai, it seems to be the same case, as the Anti-CAA gang with front warriors like Dhruv Rathee, Abhishek Mishra, Dia Mirza tried to stage a fake protest against the government in wake of Assam Election with the aim to set the grounds for AAP in Northeast.

Traces of Money Laundering through the Novel Cause

Northeastern states are quite subject to the money laundering which was used for various illegal and influencing the people, like conversations, or terrorizing people the Northeastern states are one of the area which is badly hit by the conversation forces. Such causes are the ideal methods for money laundering to empower such elements.

There has been the linkage of money laundering in the veil of such novel cause, recently Greta Thunberg’s organization Friday for Future has opened a branch in Guwahati which makes the path for the flow of money into the region.

This Friday for Future has also jumped into this and started the protest in the typical fashion via fancy placards, campaigning videos, promoted by the PR teams in order to influence the kids and students, they have been caught trying to show a shutter stock image as the image of Dihing Patkai.

A foreigner protesting against the celebration of Diwali in Guwahati

Apparently, the Friday for Future’s Guwahati Branch has violated Visa norms as they roped foreigners to stage protest in Assam.

Concluding Notes

The coal mining is not a new thing for the region, the mining is going on since centuries and the NBWL gave a nod to the site which is around 25 km Southeast of Burhi Dihing and Dihing Patkai Elephant Reserve is in Northwest.

The whole process is a fallout of the ongoing protest against the NBWL clearance to The Coal India Ltd for continuing their coal mining in Saleki Proposed Reserved Forest, Margherita. Saleki proposes reserve forest is part of the Dihing Patkai Elephant Reserve. It is noteworthy that Dihing Patkai Elephant Reserve is a term used to denote an extended landscape that includes not only forest lands, it also includes human-inhabited areas, in fact the present-day Digboi town also falls in the ambit of Elephant reserve.

Elephant reserves are landscapes identified as areas where elephant movements are found, elephant corridors, elephant migration routes found in these landscapes. The Dihing Patkai Elephant Reserve includes the 937sqkm of lowland tropical rainforest spreading across Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. But we need to understand that this patch has been fragmented for various anthropogenic needs, be it human habitation, tea plantations, cultivation of other crops, and also for mining.

Coal mining has been part of the many anthropogenic activities of this area, and there is no doubt that a part of this landscape has been extensively damaged due to mining, and mining shouldn’t be supported in rainforest area but, NBWL gave nod to the one such patch where it has been carried out since years, and owing to their vested interest they have made an issue out of nothing.

The extracts are taken from Voice of Assam for better insight

(Cover Image Credit: Round Glass)